Jan. 26, 2009
Ray Giroux '98 competed in the Kontinental Hockey League All-Star Game after being voted the No. 1 defenseman for Jaromir Jagr's all-star team.
Giroux, who led Yale to its only ECAC regular season title during the 1997-98 season, helped lead Jaromir Jagr's team to a 7-6 victory over Alexei Yashin's all-star team in the Russian professional league All Star Game January 10.
"It was an honor to be the first defensemen selected on Jagr's team," Giroux said. "In the past, the all-star games here were somewhat randomly selected, but this year the KHL let the fans choose, so it was nice to know that my last few years over here were appreciated."
Giroux's journey to Russia and the Kontinental Hockey League began after his senior season at Yale during which he captained the best team in school history and was named ECAC Player of the Year and first-team All-America.
Grioux went on to play in the American Hockey League (AHL) for a couple seasons for the Lowell Lock Monsters. Although most of his career in America was spent playing in the AHL, Giroux did break into the NHL for the New York Islanders in 1999-2000 and 2001-02 and for the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03 and 2003-04. He ended his NHL career with 13 points and a Stanley Cup ring with the Devils.
Although Giroux experienced success playing in both the AHL and NHL, he decided to head to Russia after the NHL lockout in 2004-05.
"After the lockout year in the NHL, they changed the collective bargaining agreement and made it more difficult to be called up to the NHL and basically put a cap on your potential salary if you played in the AHL," Giroux said. "I decided at that point to take a chance and signed a contract in Kazan. It was ultimately a great experience and adventure and I've been here since."
Giroux played for the Kazan Ak-Bars in the Russian Super League from 2005 to 2008. He totaled 94 points in three years and experienced the highlight of his professional career.
"There have been a few very memorable games in my career like my first NHL game and my first NHL playoff game, but I would have to say winning the Russian Super League Title for Kazan my first year here has been the best highlight of my professional career," Giroux said. "The support we got from the city and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies a championship is second to none."
In his first year with the St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL league, Giroux has already made an instant impact earning the All-Star selection in a season where he has already totaled 11 points.
Through it all, Giroux still cherishes the memory of Yale's ECAC Championship run back in 1998. Giroux said the ECAC Championship was comparable to winning the Russian Super League Title.
"In both cases I was part of a team that captured the support of it's city/campus, and was able to win despite not being considered one of the favorites at the beginning of the season," Giroux said. "In the case of the Russian title, despite being a team victory, it felt more like an individual accomplishment because I wasn't able to immediately share it with close friends and family. The ECAC title was a special journey because it was such a team oriented success that everyone was able to share with their teammates and their loved ones."
Report Filed by Steven Horn '10, Yale Sports Publicity